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Business centre supports entrepreneurs

More than 2,000 people have been helped to take their business ideas forward thanks to Sheffield’s Business and Intellectual Property Centre which opened a year ago.

Inventors, scientists, creative designers and students have all booked into the centre which is based in the city’s Central Library on Surrey Street. Almost 240 also attended free one-to-one clinics with a patent attorney or the increasingly popular Business Information and Intellectual Property workshops.

Olusola McKenzie, founder of Learn to Re-create – a social enterprise set up in 2011 to train people in fashion and textiles – says she was helped off the ground by the business support she received in the library. She now visits the new centre five years on and brings students there to help boost their own business ideas.

Ms McKenzie said: “The business support I’ve had at the library has been invaluable and I used it a lot when I was writing my business plan to set up – using all the resources and databases to get the facts and figures I needed to make things stack up, and credible for investors. The staff were always very helpful and helped me find the information to make the right choices for my business.

“I brought my students to the Business and Intellectual Property Centre as part of a course I ran on ‘Sewing and Selling.’ I showed them everything you can find, all the information, online resources and events that you can use to set up a business – and one of my students has gone on to do this.

“What’s great about the centre is that you can also use it if you need a quiet space to work in and can’t do this at home. I practically lived in the library when I was setting up and it was good to have other people around me.”

The Business and Intellectual Property Centre is free and open for everyone to use. Visit the centre to:

  1. Learn everything you need to know about protecting your ideas – from patents and trademarks, to free advice sessions with intellectual property lawyers.
  2. Use the centre’s space to get on with the business of setting up a business – with free computer use in a quiet area and bookable meeting rooms.
  3. Gain essential information about competitors and market data – to see if others have had the same business idea and how similar ones are doing on the market.
  4. Meet others through networking opportunities, workshops and events.
  5. Gain confidence about taking business ideas forward.

Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards, acting cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council, said: “We bid for external funding from the British Library to set up the centre and it’s making a positive difference for people with good business ideas and existing businesses wanting to protect their intellectual property.

“We’re helping people research their business plans and our staff see people whose confidence grows as they learn more and more using our services.

“We’re always here to help and provide free access to the specialist information that people need. Pop down and see what’s on offer.”

The Business and Intellectual Property Centre is supported by British Library and is one of eight centres based across the country. Sheffield’s centre is running its first ‘Make it in March’ event this year as part of the Sheffield Year of Making 2016.

The first event is on Wednesday, 2 March and is for anyone interested in finding out how to manufacture, design and package their ideas for market. On Wednesday, 9 March there will be a ‘Meet the Makers’ fair where innovators will display their crafts and be available to give advice to others about how to commercialise their creativity. Guy Jeremiah, founder of Ohyo and a Sheffield born and bred entrepreneur, will be talking at the event.

Join 6,000 people and sign up to the centre’s newsletter at www.sheffield.gov.uk

The centre is based at Sheffield’s Central Library on Surrey Street and is open Monday to Saturdays. For more information follow @BIPCSheffield on Twitter, BIPCSheff on Facebook, visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries or call 0114 273 4736.

The Business and Intellectual Property Centre provides specialist advice on intellectual property and access to business data. Help for people to start and grow a local business is available from Business Sheffield. Visit www.welcometosheffield.co.uk/business for more information.